If there is one thing the UAA and Western Washington volleyball teams have in common, it’s that they don’t lose much. The Vikings sported a perfect 8-0 conference record when they invaded the Alaska Airlines Center Thursday night to play the Seawolves. Prior to the match, the Seawolves were a perfect 7-0 at home this season. Much to the dismay of the 1,748 UAA fans in attendance, it was the visitors’ unbeaten streak that lived on last night.
The No. 16 Vikings (15-2, 9-0 GNAC) came away with a gutsy win over the No. 10 Seawolves, winning in 5 sets: 25-16, 25-22, 15-25, 22-25, 16-14. Despite going 5 sets, the game lasted only 77 minutes, leaving fans and coaches nearly as exhausted as the players themselves. After going down two sets, the Seawolves were able to tie the match at two sets a piece but were unable to squeeze out the final set.
“A mistake here, a mistake there really makes a difference,” UAA head coach Chris Green said. “And we just had a couple more mistakes than they did.”
The Vikings were led by senior outside hitter Rachel Roeder. Roeder was an effective hitter all night, posting a 0.267 hitting percentage on 18 kills and six errors. Freshman Viking Abby Phelps finished with 16 kills and 10 digs.
The Seawolves saw a breakout performance from junior middle blocker Erin Braun. Braun more than doubled her normal offensive output, finishing by averaging over three kills in each of the five sets.
“We knew with the defense that they run they have their blockers spread out along the net,” head coach Green said, “We knew that our middle (blocker) could be really effective – and she was.”
Green also praised the efforts of her senior, Caitlin Hanson, who made 10 kills and six blocks on the night.
After a lackluster start to the game, senior outside hitter Katelynn Zanders gained traction in the final two sets. Ten of the senior’s 16 total kills came during the last two sets. Several of Zander’s kills ricocheted off the defense into the second or third row of stands — drawing extra applause from the crowd. Zanders surpassed former Seawolf Cherie Knox on the all-time career kills list, and is now second in kills all-time with 1,258. After the game, Zanders said, while they would have liked to win, the loss gives the team valuable feedback.
“It just helps us know that we’re not where we want to be, we still haven’t peaked yet, and we still have room to improve on in practice,” Zanders said.
The Seawolves play Simon Fraser University tomorrow, Oct. 17 at 7:00 pm at the Alaska Airlines Center.